Business and community leaders in Iowa’s second-biggest county are starting to promote an upcoming referendum that could finally bring a casino to the Cedar Rapids area.
Earlier this month, the Linn County Gaming Association (LCGA) revealed the five local leaders who will serve on the nonprofit group’s board. The LCGA has selected Peninsula Pacific Entertainment (P2E) as its casino operator partner, and if voters in the county of more than 225,000 approve a Nov. 2 ballot measure, LCGA and P2E will jointly seek a casino license from the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission.
The county Board of Supervisors approved a resolution last month allowing the measure to be placed on the ballot.
In 2013, more than 61 percent of Linn County voters approved the referendum. Iowa law requires a second vote eight years after the first. A successful vote this year would permanently authorize casino gaming in the eastern Iowa county.
However, a successful referendum does not guarantee state officials will sign off on the plan. As recently as 2017, the IGRC denied an application for the state’s second-largest city on a 3-2 vote against. Opponents said Iowa’s casino market, with 19 commercial casinos, was already saturated.
But community leaders remain undaunted.
We know Linn County supports gaming, and we know that the revenue a casino would generate for our community is more important now than ever before,” LCGA President Anne Parmley said in a release posted on the pro-gaming Linn Wins website.
Supporters will hold a kickoff rally to promote the measure on Sept. 8.
Local Investors Back Project Again
LCGA isn’t the group supporting the casino drive.
The Cedar Rapids Development Group (CDRG) is a group of nearly 100 community leaders who have committed to give millions towards the development of a casino.
CDRG led the initial referendum drive eight years ago, and its members are helping rally support again.
“Voting yes on this referendum is about Linn County’s future,” said Drew Skogman, a CRDG member whose family owns a major real estate and housing development firm in Cedar Rapids, in a line in the statement. “Linn County is the largest county in Iowa without a gaming facility, and it’s time for us to receive the same economic stimulus that casinos bring to other counties in the state.”
If the referendum passes and the IRGA approves the license, the LCGA would receive funding from the P2E casino. It would then distribute grants and other awards to local nonprofits. Iowa law requires casinos to dedicate a share of their revenue to local charities and community projects.
Iowa Casinos Coming Off Record Year
Now might be an opportune time for Linn County to seek a casino license. Especially since the Iowa market just produced a record year for gaming.
In fiscal year 2021, which ended in June, the state’s commercially licensed casinos generated nearly $1.58 billion in adjusted gross revenues. That’s $109.4 million more than the gaming venues took in for 2012.
That record performance allowed Iowa to generate $314.5 million in taxes for the fiscal year.
And the strong performance carried into the new fiscal year as well. In July, the IRGC reported the casinos generated $157.4 million in revenue. That marked the fourth time in the last five months that the facilities topped the $150 million mark.
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